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Lord Archer of Weston-Super-Mare: My Lords, I welcome the new clause tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia. On the last occasion that we discussed an amendment of this kind, we had the privilege of seeing the name of the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey, added to the amendment on the Marshalled List. I hope that his speech today will leave the Minister in no doubt that the noble Lord is with us again. On the last occasion that this matter was raised, the Minister rose to the Dispatch Box and stated that, because of the three names attached to the amendment, he felt that he would be able to accept it. I am moved that all three noble Lords wish to see this provision on the face of the Bill. I look forward to seeing the Minister return to the Dispatch Box to deliver the same words.
It is sad that a provision of this kind is needed at all. One hopes that we will all live to see the day when it will not be found necessary to incorporate words of this kind in any legislation. When we look back over the history of this country, there are bound to be equivalent provisions that would be laughed at now, because the nation has moved on in a certain way. However, I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, is right when he says that it is necessary at the moment. There is no more appropriate body than the GLA to take on this duty. This city has a 27 per cent ethnic population. For that reason, there could be no better place for a provision of this kind to be seen to be working.
The noble Lord, Lord Desai, referred to religion, and he was right in what he said. Over the past year I have attended several religious meetings. It is unusual to see 100 people in the congregation of a Church of England church. Two weeks ago I attended a West Indian church. There were 3,000 people in the congregation. I attended a Muslim meeting with 4,000 in the congregation. On another occasion I went to my own church, and I am afraid to say that the choir at the
The noble Lord, Lord Desai, made a further comment about young people, which, the Minister might agree, moves away somewhat from this clause. However, it is interesting that the noble Lord feels that young people should be included when we consider minority groups. I shall be happy to send on to the noble Lord, Lord Desai, my speech of a year ago to the Metropolitan Police. At the time I said that if I were fortunate enough to be elected mayor, I would place two people under the age of 20 on the committee. In that way, two out of the 25 members would be able to confirm to the commissioner the statement made by the noble Lord, and one that I have heard many times all over London, that the young are treated differently. Those young people would be on the committee and thus able to say to the commissioner, "When I was out on Saturday night at my club, I was treated differently from the way my father claims he was treated when he was there". I would not put young people into a minority group, but I see a clear reason for allowing them to have their say at that level. I ask the Minister to take this new clause very seriously indeed and consider bringing it back at Third Reading, as the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, has asked.
The Lord Bishop of Southwark: My Lords, I should like to follow up the comments made by the noble Lord, Lord Archer. In south London in the Church of England we have something in the order of 300 congregations. Perhaps half of those are in the most deprived urban parts of our city. The majority of those congregations will be members of minority ethnic groups. When discussing the Church of England, as when looking at other Christian denominations in London, we have a Church in the urban areas which is predominantly black, certainly in terms of the members of the congregation. For that reason, I wholeheartedly wish to support this clause.
It has been very noticeable to me that the Metropolitan Police, following the sad Lawrence murder, has begun to learn its lessons. Immediately after the nail bomb incident in Brixton the police gathered together community leaders, including the local Church leaders, and from the first hour shared with them sensitive information. As a result, the community was welded together in its effort to oppose that horrific racial attack. If it can be done in Brixton, it can be done throughout London. I hope the Minister will accept this clause wholeheartedly.
Lord Cope of Berkeley: My Lords, I, too, support the aspirations expressed in Amendment No. 556A, spoken to by the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia. We would all support the principle of equality of opportunity as expressed in the first point of the clause. Further, we do, of course, support obeying the law in the elimination of all forms of unlawful
The difficulty lies in trying to translate such aspirations into legal provisions, the actual machinery of the law. That has always been the difficulty in this field. As it stands, the Bill provides that the Greater London Authority and the Metropolitan Police Authority should be subject to the Race Relations Act in the same way as other local authorities. That is proper and is the minimum requirement, as it were. The amendment seeks to substitute more general aspirations for the somewhat precise machinery of the Race Relations Act itself. I should be grateful if the Minister could tell us, if the amendment were passed in its current form, what effect it would have on the duties and activities of the Commission for Racial Equality. So far as I can see, the clause would take the CRE out of the picture, except in a general reference to unlawful discrimination. That would remove the existing machinery without replacing it with other provisions. That may be a technical difficulty. However, that is not surprising since it is often the machinery of setting a matter down in law that is difficult to get right. Bringing forward a court case and ensuring that there is someone to bring the case is often the most difficult area.
Like the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Southwark, I, too, am encouraged by the efforts of the Metropolitan Police in recent months. I have heard several of its representatives describe what the force is doing in this area, and I feel that the way it has responded to the report on the Lawrence case is encouraging. It has obviously been difficult for the force, and there is a long way to go. Not everything is perfect so far as the Metropolitan Police is concerned. However, I believe that the responses of its senior officers and the new machinery that has been put in place will continue to lead to great improvements in race relations, and that is what concerns us here in Part VI of the Bill. I share the aspirations of the amendment, but the difficult part is to get the machinery correct.
Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, from the Liberal Democrat Front Bench perhaps I may thank noble Lords from all quarters of the House who have offered their support. I hope we shall hear shortly from the Government Front Bench that they have taken on board the aspirations and ambitions encapsulated in the amendment, as have been mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Cope. I am glad that my noble friend Lord Dholakia was able to be here to move the amendment. Although it is a Front Bench amendment, given the amount of work that the noble Lord has put into promoting good relations and equality of opportunity over such a long period, it is entirely right that he should take the lead on the amendment.
I use the term "ambitions" because I believe that the new government we shall have in London in a few months' time needs to be ambitious and to take the lead in these matters. I am increasingly of the view that in areas such as discrimination we need the structure of
Lord Whitty: My Lords, I very much appreciate the contributions made in the debate. It is important that in the Bill and in the operation of the GLA we reflect the concern about discrimination in London--discrimination on racial grounds and discrimination on the other grounds to which the amendment extends. I join the noble Lord, Lord Archer, once again, at least in terms of the ambitions of the amendment. The Government have already indicated--for example, in the equal opportunities clause introduced by my noble friend Lady Farrington on 12th October and to which your Lordships' House agreed--that we are concerned to meet the objectives of the amendment. It is vital that equality of opportunity is seen to run through the Bill. In particular in London, and in particular in respect of the Metropolitan Police, we have the terrible shadow of the Lawrence inquiry in terms of the racial dimension of the matter. It is important that the people of London should enjoy equality of opportunity and should not be discriminated against on any of the counts mentioned in the Bill.
Amendment No. 556A is the substantive amendment. In principle I would be happy to accept the amendment except that there are some concerns which reflect partly what the noble Lord, Lord Cope, said. I do not think that it would rule the commission out of the arena entirely but it would mean that the section of the Race Relations Act which applies to other local authorities up and down the land will be disapplied in relation to the bodies within London. I understand the motives of the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, in trying to extend the scope of Section 71 and therefore have considerable sympathy for them, but there are some operational implications of that in relation to how existing obligations on all local government would then be affected. To that extent, the noble Lord, Lord Cope, has a point.
Before I sit down, perhaps I may also indicate that the Government have a commitment to the need for the authority to promote equality of opportunity beyond all doubt. In the light of what was said in the debate on 12th October, when my noble friend Lady Farrington moved her amendment, we intend to bring forward another amendment at Third Reading which will reflect the House's concern that the clause should include a provision similar to that in the Government of Wales Act requiring the mayor each year to publish a report setting out the arrangements which have been put in place and an assessment of how effective those arrangements have been in promoting equality of opportunity. That is another arm to our approach to equal opportunities to which I hope noble Lords will agree at Third Reading. On that basis, I ask the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment.
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